The epidemic forced the cancellation of planned public tours to Charlottetown’s historic Beaconsfield House for Christmas, but you can still take a virtual tour here.
The display was put up by the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation to give Islanders a glimpse of how Islanders spent Christmas during the Victorian era, more than 100 years ago.
“The holidays are an excellent time to make memories — maybe not in the traditional sense,” said Matthew McRae, executive director of the foundation.
“Christmas is a time for making memories and associating memories with people, places, and things.”
A variety of Christmas cards were on exhibit, a notion that began in the 1840s when shipping rates became cheaper. Everyone was mailing them by the 1870s.
The early decades were a time of innovation in greeting cards, with a variety of decorations ranging from winter settings to ornately engraved messages to children getting up to mischief.
The display included one of the foundation’s newest acquisitions, and entertaining was as significant an element of Christmas then as it is now.
The china tea set dates from the 18th century and was transported to the Island by William and Janet Simpson in 1775 after a near-miss calamity. Their ship sank off the coast of Point Prim, but the tea set was recovered.
It lasted nearly 200 years in numerous homes across the Island until being relocated to British Columbia in the 1940s. It was serving tea in Sydney, Australia, in the 1980s, still in the family derived from the Simpsons.
In 2020, the family will donate the tea set to the museum foundation. It’s the most Island tea set you’ll ever see, according to McRae, and not only because of its long history.
“Janet and William Simpson were Lucy Maud Montgomery’s great-great-grandparents,” he stated.
While the Victoria era saw the beginning of mass production, handcrafts remained popular.
A 19th-century model house built of seashells collected from Bedeque Bay is one example.
“It’s a great example of the kind of family handicrafts that would have occurred in a town like Beaconsfield in the 1800s,” said McRae.
The tour also included a permanent resident of Beaconsfield: a Christmas cactus, estimated to be at least a century old and possibly as long as 140 years.
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